ATLANTA (AP) -- With sprinklers providing the backdrop at Turner Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks straggled out of the third-base dugout for a photo commemorating their first NL championship.
The Atlanta Braves didn't notice. They were cleaning out their lockers, exchanging hugs and getting started on the offseason after another playoff exit.
Make it 1-for-10.
"Been there, done that," John Smoltz said after a 10th straight trip to the postseason ended like nine others: The other team celebrates, the Braves try to figure out what went wrong.
This time, it was the Arizona Diamondbacks who sent Atlanta on to the offseason, wrapping up the NL championship series in five games with a 3-2 victory Sunday night.
"You never get used to this," Smoltz said. "We were in there fighting, but we just didn't play our best baseball, especially at home."
In a fitting end for the first team to make the playoffs with a losing home record, the Braves lost three straight at Turner Field after splitting the first two games in Arizona.
The Braves could at least take solace in putting up more of a fight in Game 5 than the previous two nights.
"I think it was a well-played game," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "There was great pitching, some good defensive plays, some hits, a lot of action. It was a good baseball game, fun to play in."
Unlike Game 3, when Javy Lopez missed a throw home and the Braves failed twice to cover first in a 5-1 loss to Curt Schilling.
Or Game 4, when the Braves degenerated into a group of Little Leaguers. They became the first team in the 33-year history of the NLCS to make three errors in one inning, gave up six unearned runs and lost 11-4.
After Saturday's abomination, someone wrote a hopeful message on the clubhouse board: "We WILL be traveling to Arizona." Indeed, the Braves kept it close against Randy Johnson, but another error provided the deciding blow.
Marcus Giles bobbled a grounder leading off the fifth, and pinch-hitter Erubiel Durazo hit a two-out, two-run homer off Tom Glavine, a liner that just stayed fair as it whizzed by the foul pole in left.
That gave Arizona nine unearned runs in the last three games of the series.
Even so, the Braves had their chances to send the series back to the desert.
In the fifth, Julio Franco grounded out with the bases loaded. In the seventh, Franco had an RBI single and the Braves loaded the bases again, only to have Brian Jordan strike out on a slider at his feet.
That was the final pitch thrown by Johnson. Byung-Hyun Kim stoned the Braves over the final two innings, allowing just a walk.
Franco, the 40-something first baseman salvaged from the Mexican League, drove in both Atlanta runs but ended the series by flying out to center. He jogged toward first with his bat still in hand, then veered toward the dugout as the ball settled in Steve Finley's glove.
This is the third time in five seasons that another team has celebrated a league championship at Turner Field -- and returned to the field for a photo session.
The Florida Marlins beat the Braves in 1997, the San Diego Padres repeated the feat in 1998. Now, Arizona is moving on to their first World Series.
The Marlins and Diamondbacks didn't even exist when Atlanta began its unprecedented run of postseason appearances in 1991.
Despite all those chances, the Braves have managed only one World Series championship, ensuring their legacy as one of baseball's great teams will be accompanied by an asterisk.
The Brooklyn Dodgers are the closest parallel, managing only one Series title in seven tries during the 1940s and '50s. They are remembered as one of the sport's most loved and lovable teams, an image that hardly fits the Braves.
"A lot of it is perception," Smoltz said. "With the talent level we've had and the level of pitching that we've had, people expect us to win more championships."
This one was a longshot all the way. The Braves were not a great team, just an aging dynasty hoping for another chance at a ring.
There will be some difficult decisions in the days ahead. Smoltz and Lopez are potential free agents. Aging players such as Franco and B.J. Surhoff are unlikely to return.
After taking a significant hit at the gate this season, look for corporate owner AOL-Time Warner to tighten the budget even more. For the first time in a decade, the Braves appear vulnerable.
Still, Greg Maddux is hopeful.
"We'll be back next year," he said. "We always are, aren't we?"
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.